Lawmaker leads effort for veterans

Just about every politician considers veterans essential. The question is, will VA employees get that distinction in a government shutdown?

Thursday, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, whose district includes Whiteside County, led an effort to protect veterans in the event of a “politically induced” shutdown. She wrote a letter, signed by 36 of her Democratic colleagues, asking that President Barack Obama consider employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs essential.

During shutdowns, presidents can let employees considered “essential” continue working. Usually, essential employees include active-duty military members and air traffic controllers, among many others.

The letter says the congressmen are hopeful that they can reach a bipartisan consensus to avoid a government shutdown – the impact of which could delay new or pending medical claims.

“This will, in turn, cause the massive claims backlog that we have pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce to again worsen …” the letter says.

House Republicans are threatening a government shutdown in their effort to defund Obamacare, the program in which Democrats hope to expand Americans’ access to health care.

The federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30, so without a budget agreement, the government would shut down.

Bustos spokesman Colin Milligan said she circulated the letter in Republican members’ offices, but none signed.

A spokesman for Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, who represents Lee County, didn’t have any immediate comment on Bustos’ letter.